To say that these are unprecedented times in our lives is an understatement. Who would have ever thought that we, arguably the busiest people on the planet, can lock ourselves inside our homes, practice physical distancing and massively homeschool our kids?
Not in my wildest dreams.
Who would have thought that workrooms across the nation would pause their custom-drapery sewing skills for mass production of washable cloth face masks?
Yet, perhaps, if I pause to think about it for a second (after all, I have the time now), it’s not so surprising. If we believe that “history repeats itself,” then it’s not surprising at all.
Just like many factories pivoted their production to war supplies and equipment during World War II, so are modern-day companies stepping in to help with the supply of critical medical gear. And our industry is no different!
Photos and masks by Irene Hurley Designs
Workrooms across the county have risen to the occasion, putting aside their own work and family, to answer the plea of thousands of medical professionals and first responders. Yes, we are all feverishly sewing face masks!
Vita Vygovska, owner of Vitalia, Inc. Window Treatments
Modern-day Rosies, yes we are. Answering the call. Stepping up. Pivoting and staying agile. Able and capable. Banding together. Sharing knowledge. And supporting each other in the process.
Nowhere is this support more evident than in the private Facebook group started and moderated by Sandra VanSickle, appropriately named #MaskAmerica. Initiated only a week ago, the group quickly grew to more than 860 members. Here, one can find plethora of posts on the many patterns for face masks, where to donate them, what to use for ties, best practices for fastest production, tips, tricks, and plenty of pictures and videos.
“I am just so humbled and amazed at how quickly the workrooms came together and how generous everyone is with their time and support of this cause. I have never seen anything like this before. And I am incredibly proud of our industry,” said group moderator and industry veteran Sandra VanSickle.
In many instances, workrooms are using supplies they happen to have on hand. As those are running out, many workrooms have put out a call to industry partners. Vendors like Stout Textiles, Mitchell Fabrics, Hanes Fabrics and Clarence House are donating fabrics. Sloan Machinery is donating sewing needles to anyone who ships their masks to Boston, one of the hardest-hit areas of the country. Colleagues are donating and shipping their supplies across the country, as many retailers have sold out or regular fulfilment would take too long.
Jaime Sloan-McCarthy, the daughter of industry veteran Sam Sloan, was one of the first people to see the need for face masks in her area. Sitting on the sidelines was not an option for her, so she decided to do something about it. Jaime started a crusade of connecting local sewers of masks with area hospitals, by personally driving around, picking up and dropping them off. On Friday, March 20, she took her mission to Facebook Live with Sandra VanSickle, where they educated the rest of us on this desperate situation and gave us the tools and inspiration to get involved.
Photo and masks by Elizabeth Gerdes
Some critics have voiced their concern that these masks are not effective; they are not medical-grade, they won’t work. Of course, we don’t kid ourselves—these are not N95s. Our goal is to provide medical personnel and first responders just with an extra layer of protection, which they otherwise wouldn’t have. When the CDC’s guidelines call for using a bandanna, and hospitals ask their personnel to reuse disposable masks, we know we can help.
Just last night a physician, to whom my company Vitalia Inc. donated 20 masks, said to me on the phone: “You are a savior. We are being sent to the tent with COVID-19-infected patients starting tomorrow and we have no protection. Anything you give us is better than nothing.” When you hear stories like that firsthand, you have no choice but to keep on sewing.
About the Author
Vitalia Vygovska (Vita for short), CWFP, MBA, is an award-winning window treatment specialist, author, speaker, mom, wife and ballroom dancer. Her company, Vitalia, Inc. Window Treatments, provides all-encompassing concierge-level, tech-driven fabrication, measurement, installation and project-management services exclusively for interior designers.